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Multitude of nursing uniforms causing confusion in England

Congress discusses whether a national uniform should be introduced

Congress discusses whether a national uniform should be introduced


Leonore Newson said her hospital had 20 different uniforms for nurses.
Picture: John Houlihan

Patients, their families, staff and students are confused at the number of different uniforms in health settings in England, congress was told.

In a discussion on whether England should introduce a national uniform to mirror those in use in the other three UK countries, Leonore Newson from Plymouth said it was often difficult to tell who was a registered nurse and who was a support worker.

The introduction of new roles such as nursing associates was causing even more confusion, she added.

Twenty uniforms

‘With our medical staff rotating around the hospital, it must be confusing for them to approach someone and be told "I’m not a nurse, I’m a domestic".’

Ms Newson added that in her hospital there were no less than 20 different uniforms for nurses alone, as some staff had kept their old ones while others had started wearing a newly introduced design.

In 2009, Wales introduced a national nursing uniform that identifies by colour healthcare support workers, nursing students, staff nurses, ward sisters and nurse consultants.

Regional uniforms for nursing staff within the Health and Social Care service in Northern Ireland were first rolled out in 2011.

Scottish style

Since 2012, NHS Scotland staff wear a national uniform, with different levels of clinical staff wearing a dedicated shade of blue. A burgundy uniform for clinical nurse managers has now also been introduced.

Health practitioner Tracie Culpitt, of the nursing support committee, said the assumption in a hospital was usually that if you wore a uniform that you are a nurse.


Katie Sutton: ‘A uniform can create a barrier.’ Picture: John Houlihan

Katie Sutton of Manchester central said a mental health nurse needs to be ‘approachable and not scary’, and added: ‘A uniform can create a barrier to a therapeutic relationship.

'My unit is about to introduce uniforms and part of me can’t wait to put on my new tunic. I know I will feel proud as it’s a symbol of everything I’ve worked for. But what will it mean for our patients?’

Andy Roy of the district nurses forum said he wears a white tunic for work but when he goes to people’s homes they ask, ‘Are you the occupational therapist or the chiropodist?’

Practical clothing

But Tom Bolger, from south west London, said if people are unsure of a member of staff’s role they can just ask them.

‘Uniforms should be practical and protective,’ he added.

‘The issue with a national uniform is a hang-up for nurses but not for visitors and patients.’

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